Suspect in fatal June DUI crash pleads not guilty to murder

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Javier Caldera at an Oct. 4, murder charge arraignment against him at the Southwest Justice Center for the death of Janet Genao during an alleged high-speed DUI crash he caused on Interstate 15 in Temecula on June 4, 2019. Shane Gibson photo

A man accused of causing a June crash on Interstate 15 in Temecula that left a woman dead pleaded not guilty Friday to murder and other felony charges.

Javier Caldera, 26, of Auburn, Washington, is also facing felony counts of driving under the influence of drugs and hit-and-run causing property damage in connection with the crash, which took place just after 7:15 a.m. June 4 on southbound I-15 near Old Town Temecula.

Caldera appeared Friday morning for his arraignment before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Stephen Gallon.

The suspect, who has prior convictions from Washington state — one for driving under the influence as well as one for felony evading resulting from a police pursuit in November 2018 — remains held without bail at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning, jail records show.

A dashcam video of the June crash that was posted to YouTube shows a Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck — with Caldera behind the wheel — plow into the back of another vehicle in the No. 2 lane of the freeway, triggering a chain reaction crash that killed 44-year-old Janet Genao or Murrieta and demolished at least two other cars.

Witnesses said Caldera was traveling at more than 100 miles per hour when the crash occurred. The force of the impact was so strong that it sent a Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck flying into the side of the Temecula City Hall parking garage, badly mangling it and leaving it nearly unrecognizable.

The 38-year-old Wildomar man driving the S-10 was seriously injured. Two other people sustained minor injuries, while another driver and Caldera weren’t badly hurt.

Caldera can be seen on the video stumbling away from the crash in the center median of I-15 before collapsing.

The vehicles involved in the deadly collision apparently remain in police custody — Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Allison Pace, the prosecutor in Caldera’s case, said at the arraignment that the cars are being held as evidence until Dec. 2.

Caldera is due back in court for a felony settlement conference on Nov. 22.